This book was written in the fifth century BCE when the Jews lived under the administration of governors. For the most part, the people had lost their appreciation for pure worship, bringing blemished offerings for sacrifice and failing to tithe according to the requirements contained in the law.
The priests bore much of the responsibility for this situation. They had come to regard their sacred duty like an unpleasant chore and did not uphold the law impartially. For their failure, YHWH, through his prophet, censured them severely.
Among the people generally, many men treated their wives hatefully, divorcing them for selfish reasons in order to marry younger women who were devoted to the worship of foreign gods. Additionally, the poor, including orphans and widows, were often subjected to unjust treatment.
The deplorable situation then existing merited divine judgment. Through his prophet, YHWH proclaimed the coming of that fear-inspiring event and urged repentance before its arrival.
The judgment was to be preceded by the coming of a messenger who would prepare the way before the Lord. This messenger proved to be John the Baptizer.
Besides those who completely ignored God’s ways, others merely engaged in a routine of worship devoid of appreciation and love for YHWH and looked enviously at the prosperity of the lawless ones. Nevertheless, a remnant maintained their faith and found companions with whom they shared their convictions. Through his prophet, YHWH assured these faithful ones that their names would be in his scroll of remembrance and that they would come to enjoy marvelous blessings.